Title: Last Night
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Directors: Massy Tadjedin
Principle Cast: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Guillaume Canet, Eva Mendes
Length: 90 minutes
Director, writer & producer Massy Tadjedin has scored a hat trick with her beautiful, contemporary and honest character-driven debut film Last Night, in which she undertakes an intimate exploration of monogamy, temptation and betrayal within the three year marriage of New Yorkers Michael and Joanna Reed.
With Last Night, Tadjedin delves into emotional betrayal vs. physical betrayal and states, “My aim isn’t to give my answer but to help everyone find their own. Everyone will decide what is forgivable and what isn’t. To me it was more about the anatomy of a rift, and looking for the meaning in that.”
Michael (Avatar’s Sam Worthington) is a quiet, unassuming, but hard-working real estate developer and his gorgeous, albeit distractingly thin wife Joanna, (Keira Knightley in the best performance of her career) is a fashion writer who is struggling with her second literary novel after a lackluster publishing debut. The couple has known each other since their school days and broke up once before they married, but we soon discover that they both still have secrets.
When Joanna realizes at a business function that Michael’s new colleague is the stunningly pretty Laura (Eva Mendes of The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans) – who she can see is attracted to her husband from across the room – she automatically assumes that something other than business has been going on between them. Joanna and Michael have a fight the night before he has to leave for Philadelphia on another business trip with his best friend/colleague Andy (Anson Mount) and Laura and by morning, Joanna convinces herself that she has probably overreacted and sends Michael off with a hug and a hidden note of apology. In fact, Michael is struggling not to yield to temptation as Laura later reveals that she’s sad and lonely and doesn’t care that he’s married. Mendes infuses her character with compassion, complexity and a depth that left me unable to blame her for her actions.
Later that morning, Joanna goes out for coffee and runs into an old flame from Paris, fellow writer Alex Mann (Guillaume Canet, who is a famous heartthrob in France) and coquettishly makes a date with him for later that day. She goes home and gets all dolled up and while it’s obvious that they’re both still carrying a torch for each other, Joanna doesn’t hide the fact that she loves her husband too.
Griffin Dunne has a small but integral part as Alex’s publisher Truman who grills Joanna about her relationship with Alex and her husband at their dinner date.
Throughout the rest of the film, which takes place primarily during one night (and in which New York City is another character), we ask ourselves will they cheat on each other or won’t they? There are subtle nuances in the looks that pass over the actors’ faces as they interact with each other and more is revealed in those glances than in the dialogue. Knightley had significant chemistry with Canet and their scenes were electric in comparison to those she shared with Worthington. Although we see that Michael has moments where he’s fighting with his conscience, Worthington’s performance is slightly stilted.
This is an adult film (rated R) that should spark an interesting discussion between you and anyone you watch it with. The DVD offers viewing choices in English or French and the only real bonus feature is a vignette comprised of interviews with the director and cast on the making of the film. I was bewildered by the fact that there are French subtitles available for the interviews with the English cast but French actor Guillaume Canet speaks entirely in French with no English subtitles so I didn’t know what he was saying. That was disappointing, but overall, the movie is a hidden gem that deserves way more recognition than it received upon its release.